Government tells UN it has no plans to outlaw slapping of children

Balance to be struck between ‘protecting children and criminalising parents’ - report


The Government has told a United Nations committee it has no specific plans to introduce a law to outlaw slapping or “reasonable chastisement” of children in the home.

This is despite calls by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to “explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment in the family”.

Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald yesterday published the Government’s official response to the committee.

Common law
While measures that allow parents the right to use force or “reasonable chastisement” against children were repealed in the 2001 Children’s Act, a defence is still available in common law.

In its response to the UN, the Government states that Ireland does not have any law that specifically permits corporal punishment within the home setting.

The Children’s Act, it says, provides clear legal deterrents to the use of “excessive physical discipline” in the home and other settings.

While it acknowledged there was a common law defence for using reasonable chastisement, it said the courts have previously handed down severe sentences in cases where parents have been convicted for assault against their children.

“The Government considers that there is a delicate balance to be struck between child protection priorities and attempting to criminalise parents who ‘smack’ their children.

“Any proposal for legislative change in this area will require careful consideration due to the relative merits of criminal sanctions and positive promotion of good parenting models, and possible constitutional implications relating to the role of the family,” the report states.
Its response adds that while a specific proposal for a prohibition in the home setting has not been brought forward to date, the matter has been kept under review.